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Category Archives: mono

I think anyone has mixed feelings at the least regarding Phil Spector. He made gigantic sounds out of mono, and influenced all great studio greats of pop after him. But he was also deranged, abusive, and probably a murderer. It’s with that in mind that listening to his Christmas album brings such a mix of emotions for me. Was it always imbued with such a darkness, or am I applying that retroactively? For me, this stuff was part of the landscape of movies like Goodfellas before I ever heard it completely.

Is it possible to hear this garishly saccharine music, imagining Phil waving a gun around and keeping Ronnie Spector a virtual prisoner, that it was released on the day Kennedy was assassinated… and find a distorted beauty in its facade? Is it just a fascination with the dark underside of American pop culture?

Something I’ve been thinking about this Christmas, when everybody I know is having a bummer of a time or is at some sort of personal crossroads. In my world it just feels distinctly un-Christmas-like this year. No big deal, it happens.

Inside cover to the reissue. Click for enlarged terror.

If you’re altogether unfamiliar, AMG’s Dennis MacDonald offers up the platitudes:

Featuring Phil Spector’s “Wall of Sound” in its prime and his early stable of artists, the Ronettes, Crystals, Darlene Love, and Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans, A Christmas Gift for You From Phil Spector stands as inarguably the greatest Christmas record of all time. Spector believed he could produce a record for the holidays that would capture not only the essence of the Christmas spirit, but also be a pop masterpiece that would stand against any work these artists had already done. He succeeded on every level, with all four groups/singers recording some of their most memorable performances. This is the Christmas album by which all later holiday releases had to be judged, and it has inspired a host of imitators.

Anyway, I posted the mono mix from Spector’s BACK TO MONO box, and a bootleg of the stereo mix on the Phillies Records reissue by bootleg team DR. EBBETT’s. If you get one, make it the mono mix, which is definitive. I include the stereo mix for the curious who already have the mono mix.

mu zs
320kbps MP3

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Re-up to condense this stuff and replace with higher bitrates. Dig that Daniel Clowes cover art circa 1991!

The LAS VEGAS GRIND series by Strip Records, a shelf label of the incredible Crypt Records, is just begging for a box set. From the early 90s to around 2002, the series compiled roughly 200 cuts of the coolest… uh music? I struggle with a way to even classify it. It’s rockabilly but with an added swing. Where big band and early garage rock meet. Too dirty and lo-fi to be Lounge/Exotica. It’s 1950s frat rock for the dads of the kids at the Animal House. Weirdo, but too get-in-the-studio-and-knock-this-one-out professional for the world of Irwin Chusid-style obscurantism. It manages to be slightly askew of any typical genre classification.

Read this description by AMG’s Jessica Jernigan:

If the Las Vegas of Frank Sinatra is a little too classy, a bit too swank for your taste, you might want to pay a visit to the land of Las Vegas Grind. The lights aren’t so bright there and the liquor is cheap. The air is redolent with warm Brylcream and sweaty polyester — the smell of conventioneers nervously enjoying the kind of entertainment they could never get away with back home. Just remember to bring a wad of one-dollar bills, and don’t forget there’s a three-drink minimum.

The Earthworms was just a name Oliver Sain and

Little Milton used to cut this one-off 45 for Bobbin
Records in 1962. They might have owned the label
for all I know and just used other names to make
more 45s!
Anyway, I plead and beg here for a definitive box set for this stuff because there are multiple volumes, and multiple pressings of each volume with different songs. It’s kind of a mess. On vinyl it goes VOLUME I-V (I think), and on CD it goes PART I-III (fitting the vinyl VOLUMES I-V) and THEN a newly added CD VOLUME VI that has all new material to the series. So that leads to the confusing predicament of there being no V on CD, it just goes I-IV, VI. Heh.

Note the alternating use of VOLUME and PART. The original releases are VOLUMES, and those are compiled into larger versions for the CD PARTS. And after that was done they put out another VOLUME! And this new one was on CD! See, confusing!

Anyway so what I have in 320 is PARTS I-III and VI from the CDs.

95% certain Edgar Allen & The Po’ Boys was just a

Session musicians or established less-than-photogenic studio wizards would often record these one shot 45s for tiny labels in exchange for a quick buck, or to slyly inflate their own label’s roster. Sometimes they went on to become large figures in pop/rock later. I just found out the song “Buzzsaw Twist” by The Gee Cees is actually just Glen Campbell!

Must have stuff. I love garage rock comps like anyone else, but this stuff is a whole other level. It wins the lifetime achievement award for music you can just set and forget and leave on for HOURS. You can play it for an entire eight hour shift. It’s great for bars and cool restaurant/dive type places. You’ll also hear some sources of popular samples herein. I could swear the title lyric in “Scatty Cat” by Bob Bunny is a common sample used by DJ Qbert or one of the other Invisible Skratch Piklz.

Yeah, so get this. Okay? Look I don’t want to make a big deal out of it.

Yes, I know, I’ve uploaded this album already. But Dr. Ebbetts made a bootleg of the rare mono mix of RAM (not a stereo fold down) and I figured I’d just repost both mixes. The mono mix wins me over on certain songs, the stereo on others. Rockers like “Smile Away” are served well by the mono, and you can tell extra special care was taken in the mono mix for “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey”, one of the weirdest singles ever. By the way, this is the single best solo work by any Beatle. Just thought I’d throw that out there. -Ian!

One collector points out “This is (so far) the best sounding digital transfer of the rare mono LP. While it sounds similar to the Japanese pirate disc [‘Ram Mono Mix’ Manural Apple MAS-3375], the sound here is a bit more open on the high and low frequencies and the bass is more profound and clear. The overall sound is very smooth and this disc plays nicely beside the DCC master of the stereo mix. We all know that the vinyl Capitol Records used during this period was not the quietest, and as such every mono LP has a small amount of audible background noise. This noise is a little more noticeable on the Dr. Ebbett disc than the ‘Manural Apple’ disc, but this could just be a result of the Equalizing. I also want to mention that it is possible that Dr. Ebbett could of mastered this version from the ‘Manural Apple’ disc but I highly doubt it (there’s a lower tracking error during “Smile Away” on this version than the “Manural Apple’ disc).”

This is a straight transfer of the mono. There is noticeable surface noise however. To give the benefit of the doubt to the label, virgin copies may be almost impossible to find, but it sounds as if no attempt was made to clean up the recording. Despite that it has the good Scorpio mastering job sounding very natural and warm. It comes packaged in a single cardboard glossy paper sleeve with an insert with the track listing on the inside.

According to the book Eight Arms To Hold You, there are differences between the mono and stereo on almost each track. On “Too Many People” the mono mix has mixed-down backing vocals, less processing and a longer fade out. On “3 Legs,” there is a stray note that is mixed out during “fly flies in…”, a tighter edit at “you know it’s not allowed,” and the background vocals are mixed lower. “Ram On” has no processing on the ukulele. For “Dear Boy” there is considerable flanging on the vocal interlude in the middle and the backing vocals are lower also. There is flanging also on the guitar intro for the mono mix of “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey.” The high-hat at the start of the “Admiral Halsey” section in the stereo version is absent in mono. There is a vocal harmony at 3:10 on the word “water” missing in mono and the punch in at 2:18 in the stereo version is lower in the mix on mono.

The segue between “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” and “Smile Away” is smoother in mono, and the high harmony at 1:52 in stereo is absent throughout the rest of the song in mono. Also, the fade is three seconds longer in mono than stereo. “Heart Of The Country” is identical in both stereo and mono. The mono ”Monkberry Moon Delight” has more reverb than stereo and the guitar, tambourine and backing vocals are lower in the mix. In the mono “Eat At Home” there is some mumbling by Paul after the first “eat at home” and the vocal interjections during the solo are not in mono. On “Long Haired Lady” there is flanging on the piano during the first “love is long” break, the stereo fade is slightly longer and the crossfade to ”Ram On” begins at a different point. The mono mix for “Ram On” shorter with less reverb, and finally ”The Back Seat Of My Car” has a smoother edit to the outro.



Remember how I went (or am currently) on a country rock/psychedelic cowboy spree? Well, this is the album that started all that. It’s rare an album works so slowly and thoroughly on me, to the point I can listen to it a year later and still hear things that blow my mind and make me go “these guys were absolute geniuses, I get it now”. I never really sat down and listened to The Byrds until about two years ago, and it blew my fucking mind. The album also is produced by Gary Usher, and Curt Boettcher helped with the harmonies.

Not really going to bother with an extensive backstory on the album itself, I’ll leave that up to you to read about. Suffice it to say that the band was at the breaking point at a WHITE ALBUM-level as they were making this album. The recording reduced the band to a core duo of Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman. They then threw their lot in with Gram Parsons for their next move, a pretty unparalleled surrendering of creative control to a new band member in rock history. It was the right move though, as it brought us SWEETHEART OF THE RODEO.

I’ve never been able to decide my preference between stereo and mono mixes for this album. I love the punch of the mono, but it doesn’t have the drastic obvious superiority of, say, the Beatles mono mixes. That’s not to say there aren’t differences, ChrisGoesRock explains a few of them:

  • The horns on “Artificial Energy” are noticeably quieter on the mono mix.
  • The cello sections during the chorus of “Goin’ Back” are much quieter on the mono mix.
  • Where the stereo mix of “Natural Harmony” has a lot of double-tracking on the vocals, this is almost non-existent on the mono mix. To make up for the lack of double-tracking, the mono mix adds extra electronic phasing to the vocals.
  • The mono mix of “Change Is Now” has more echo on the vocals, which tends to give the song a “spacier” feel.
  • The Moog synthesizer sound effects on “Space Odyssey” are sometimes louder and sometimes quieter than the stereo mix.

For the most part, though, it seems like this was an early stereo rock album where stereo was used effectively and it does at least feel like there’s interaction between instruments in the soundfield. You’ll find that this isn’t really the case for most stereo mixes from 1967-68. I think that has to do with Usher and Boettcher, who really were the only guys who knew how to make a decent stereo mix at that time. At least in Los Angeles.

So I just decided to throw in both mixes and leave it up to you. The stereo mix is from an original Columbia vinyl, the mono is from the MFSL 20-bit remaster. I put the bonus tracks from the MFSL in a separate download so you can choose your preference and not miss out or have to download the bonus material twice. I recommend the bonus tracks, David Crosby’s “Triad” is worth it alone.

If you’ve never heard this album and want my suggestion: get the STEREO. You can go back and listen to the mono after you’ve fallen in love. That might be blasphemy in some circles, dunno.

But get this album. It is slowly working its way into my top five favorite all time albums like an unrelenting space monolith. It tops some of the best Beatles, some of the best Rolling Stones, some of the best Beach Boys.


Before Bridge Over Troubled Waters, Bookends released in 1968 was the most accomplished Simon & Garfunkel album out there. It moved away from traditional folk music but still retained the ideals of that generation, had an overarching theme of growing up if not older and a very upbeat, finger-clicking rhythm. The moving America, a meditation on country, was later covered by Yes as an epic progressive rock song stretching a few minutes into tens of minutes.

The songs that featured the best tunes were Save The Life Of My Child and A Hazy Shade Of Winter. Both were signposts that Simon was embracing the new. Bookends was his literary device to place all he wanted to say about his society on two sides of vinyl. Both the rapid changes of the urban new and the letting go of a slower pace of life.

When this boot first appeared it was the first time studio outtakes of Simon & Garfunkel tracks had arrived in such quality. The fan collective, Purple Chick, went to great lengths to offer not only the alternate album, but a compilation of live tracks of all the songs on Bookends and included as a bonus the original Bookends album in mono. The mono LP was not a typical fold-down from stereo but a unique mix that is out-of-print.

There’s plenty to marvel at, the unreleased Groundhogs and the alternate lyrics in the song At The Zoo. The sequence of tracks follows Purple Chick’s set. And we’d also like to ask why every time a fresh greatest hits S&G set is assembled the bonus live tracks are inevitably taken from the released Live In New York City 1967 disc?

-Professor Red,

Simon & Garfunkel-THE ALTERNATE BOOKENDS (1968, Purple Chick 2008)